Günter Grass: "the nuclear power of Israel endangers the already fragile world peace"

The controversy over Günter Grass’s poem about Israel and Iran only confirms what Grass was saying: That it’s impossible to criticize Israel without being lambasted.

Grass, the Nobel-Prize-winning author of The Tin Drum, among many other works, dared to question Israel’s first strike policy against Iran, dared to underscore “the West’s hypocrisy” that permits Israel to have an arsenal of uninspected nuclear weapons and then permits Israel to threaten to annihilate the Iranian people if Iran tries to get one of its own.

For this, Grass has been roundly condemned. The Israeli government has banned him from entering that country, and Benjamin Netanyahu has ridiculed him for essentially espousing views from Grass’s Nazi youth.

Grass seemed to anticipate just such a reaction and wrestled with whether to speak out or not.

The first words in his poem, after all, are “Why do I stay silent.”

And he answers, in part, because he knows he’ll be hit with the familiar “verdict of ‘anti-Semitism.’ ”

And he knows that Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust also has kept him silent:

“Because I thought my origin/Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged” served as a muzzle when it came to criticizing Israel, a country “to which I am bound and wish to stay bound.”

As a German, Grass writes that he feels obliged to speak out because Germany is sending Israel another submarine “whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads.” He writes: “We—as Germans burdened enough—could be suppliers to a crime that is foreseeable.”

He doesn’t make a false equivalence to the Holocaust. In fact, he calls Germany’s “own crimes” as being “without comparison.”

Nor does Grass hold a brief for Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad— whom he calls a “loud-mouth” subjugating his people.

But Grass worries that an attack by Israel would be catastrophic and that time is getting short.

And so he writes, “aged and with my last ink,” that “the nuclear power Israel endangers/the already fragile world peace.”

He urges Israel to “renounce violence” and he calls on an international agency to take control of both the Israeli and the Iranian nuclear sites.

So what exactly has Gunter Grass done wrong here?

What he wrote about “the West’s hypocrisy” and the nuclear double standard is true.

What he wrote about the impending risk of an Israeli first strike is also true.

And if you believe in nuclear disarmament, as I do, then his position on having the U.N. take over Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear sites is also commendable.

Grass’s words are not the words of an anti-Semite. They are the words of a man of conscience and a man of peace, daring to speak out even as he knows the slurs are coming.

The article above was p In Defense of Günter Grass by Matthew Rothschild.

Was gesagt werden muss
(from Süeddeutsche.de)

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren - wenn auch geheimgehalten -
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt "Antisemitismus" ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir - als Deutsche belastet genug -
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

What Must Be Said
(translated from German by Heather Horn for The Atlantic).

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long
What clearly is and has been
Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors
Are at best footnotes.

It is the alleged right to first strike
That could annihilate the Iranian people--
Enslaved by a loud-mouth
And guided to organized jubilation--
Because in their territory,
It is suspected, a bomb is being built.

Yet why do I forbid myself
To name that other country
In which, for years, even if secretly,
There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand
But beyond control, because no inspection is available?

The universal concealment of these facts,
To which my silence subordinated itself,
I sense as incriminating lies
And force--the punishment is promised
As soon as it is ignored;
The verdict of "anti-Semitism" is familiar.

Now, though, because in my country
Which from time to time has sought and confronted
Its very own crime
That is without compare
In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also
With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares
A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,
Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence
Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,
But as a fear wishes to be conclusive,
I say what must be said.

Why though have I stayed silent until now?
Because I thought my origin,
Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged
Kept the state of Israel, to which I am bound 

And wish to stay bound,
From accepting this fact as pronounced truth.

Why do I say only now,
Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say;
Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--
Could be the suppliers to a crime
That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity
Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

And granted: I am silent no longer
Because I am tired of the hypocrisy
Of the West; in addition to which it is to be hoped
That this will free many from silence,
That they may prompt the perpetrator of the recognized danger
To renounce violence and
Likewise insist
That an unhindered and permanent control
Of the Israeli nuclear potential
And the Iranian nuclear sites
Be authorized through an international agency
By the governments of both countries.

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,
Even more, all people, that in this
Region occupied by mania
Live cheek by jowl among enemies,
And also us, to be helped.